Manuel Pellegrini: Penalty decisive in Manchester City loss to Tottenham
By Sam Drury
Last Updated: 14/02/16 7:38pm
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini believes referee Mark Clattenburg was the deciding factor in his side's defeat to Tottenham on Sunday.
The game ended 2-1 to Spurs after Christian Eriksen's late winner, but Pellegrini said the defining moment came in the 52rd minute when Clattenburg awarded the visitors a penalty for a handball by Raheem Sterling, even though the ball appeared to hit his armpit.
Harry Kane scored the resulting spot-kick before Kelechi Iheanacho equalised for the hosts. They were level for just nine minutes though as Eriksen struck the winner to move Spurs back up to second in the Premier League.
Pellegrini was incensed by the penalty decision and also pointed to the reverse fixture between the sides, where Clattenburg was also in charge and in which two Spurs goals appeared to be offside.
"I'm disappointed because I thought we were better than Tottenham, really they didn't have any chances to score until the end when we took more risks, we lost the ball and they scored the second goal," the Chilean told Sky Sports.
"Before that we had more clear chances, not too many, but it was a close game, a very good game. The decisive penalty was very important.
"Unfortunately for us, it is the same referee as in the first game with Tottenham when they scored two goals that were offside.
"Today, I believe the penalty decided the game. It's a shot that hits the back of Sterling and then his elbow very slightly. I think the referee decided the game."
With Leicester losing at Arsenal earlier in the day, City had the chance to make up ground on the leaders.
However, even though Pellegrini said they were the better side at the Etihad, they are six points behind Leicester with 12 games of the season remaining.
"Of course, after [the penalty] we were 1-0 down, we had to take a lot of risks," said Pellegrini. "Before this Tottenham didn't shoot once at our goal, I can't remember a save by Joe Hart so I think that action [to give the penalty] in a very close game was absolutely decisive.
"It is a decision that we are very unlucky with this referee, it was the same in the first game against the same team.
"I think that we responded well but it was more important to win the three points.
"We are not going to give up [on the title]. Of course, losing two games here against teams that are fighting for the title in Leicester and Tottenham is not an advantage but we have to keep working. I think the spirit of the team was very good but we are going to continue fighting as much as we can."
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher agreed with Pellegrini on the penalty incident, saying he was not sure how the referee could have seen it from his position.
"I think he has gone off a hunch that it's hit him in the arm. He's got it wrong," he said. "It wasn't a penalty. The referee was so sure it was a handball and it felt like the decision he had to make was whether it was inside or outside.
"He was right in that it was inside, but it's not handball. It almost hits Raheem Sterling on the armpit."